(Courtney Strouthos / McGill Tribune)

Faculty of Arts faces 50 course cuts due to reduced budget for course lecturers

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The Faculty of Arts will terminate approximately 50 courses in the 2014-2015 academic year, as announced on Jan 29.

The decision is a continued effect of provincial budget cuts announced in December 2012, in response to which the Office of the Provost called for a 10 per cent cut in the budget for contract academic staff  (CAS) in all faculties.

CAS are faculty and course lecturers not on a tenure-track. According to Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi, impact on students would be minimal, as well.

“There is no choice in this matter,” Manfredi said. “Students’ progress towards completing their programs will not be affected, and the impact on average class size will be negligible.”

Justin Fletcher, president of the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS), said the effects on individual departments would be less impactful.

“Since reductions will take place across many academic units,” he said. “We do not anticipate there being a huge disruption in terms of the number of courses per unit.”

However, Fletcher stressed that faculties with more CAS would be more negatively affected.

“While this cut is across-the-board at McGill, Arts is affected more because many of our courses are taught by CAS,” he said.

In the upcoming weeks, departments will present a prioritized list of CAS-taught courses to the Dean, who will then allocate the CAS budget to departments. Individual departments will make the final decision on which CAS-taught courses will be offered based on this budget.

According to Greenspon, language courses will be prioritized, since they are mostly taught by CAS. The majority of, cuts will take place to CAS-taught courses in large departments such as english, political science, economics, and history, where the large number of tenure-track professors reduces the necessity of hiring CAS, according to Greenspon.

“I would expect [large departments] to have a similar percentage of courses cut as smaller, non-language departments,” AUS Vice-President  Academic Jacob Greenspon said. “But given the number of courses in Political Science, for example, this similar percentage will result in a higher raw number of courses cut.”

This year’s cuts come in addition to 100 courses cut by the Faculty for the 2013-14 academic year. Greenspon expressed concern at the lack of student consultation in the decision.

“While I’m sure there was much conversation in the McGill administration about how to deal with less funding from the government, I believe that this conversation did not involve as much student input as our position as primary stakeholder of the university warrants,” Greenspon said. “[This] demonstrates that the administration’s priorities do not include creating a consensus among [students] for the most important decisions that affect them all.”

Fletcher indicated several ways in which students could become involved in the process, including attending department-level consultations.

“Our plan of action […] is to engage in proactive dialogue with the Dean and Provost to see if there is additional room in the budget and to encourage professors to teach at the standard teaching load of 12 credits per year,” he said. “We encourage our departmßental associations to make sure students are present at department meetings, to ensure priority courses continue to be taught.”

McGill Course Lecturer’s and Instructors Union could not be reached for comment.